9 things you should never put in an air fryer

An air fryer filled with seasoned vegetables
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The best air fryers are a popular appliance, used to prepare all kinds of air fryer recipes. Ranging from succulent chicken-based dishes to soft and gooey cookies,  this versatility makes it super convenient — even knowing how to clean an air fryer couldn't be more simple. 

However, air fryers are not invulnerable. In fact, there are some air fryer mistakes we all make, especially when it comes to knowing what you can’t put in there. There are certain recipes which will result in nothing but disaster and avoiding them can help make an air fryer last longer. So, before you get cooking, here are 9 things you should never put in an air fryer. 

If you're cooking in an Instant Pot instead, that's an entirely different appliance. Check out our guide on Instant Pot vs air fryer for more details. Thinking about buying a new air fryer? Here are 9 things to think about when buying an air fryer.  

Plus, our Homes content editor had her air fryer for years — but only use it for one thing.

1. Cheese

A grilled cheese sandwich

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Just saying the words ‘grilled cheese’ will make most mouths water. Imagine such a sandwich with an air-fried finish and what’s not to love? 

The problem is cheese can quickly melt and burn in the high temperatures of an air fryer, resulting in a stringy mess. Frozen mozzarella sticks are fine, but fresh cheese is unfortunately a no-no.  

2. Raw rice 

A bowl of cooked rice

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Raw rice grains need to be boiled in water to cook, and sadly air fryers aren’t designed to do this. Even if you found a container to hold the water, your air fryer won’t reach a high enough temperature to boil it. You should initially cook the rice on a stove top, and then you can crisp it afterwards in an air fryer. 

Alternatively, you can invest in a rice cooker for making large batches, such as the Zojirushi NS-LGC05XB Micom Rice Cooker ($149.95, Amazon). There’s always the best Instant Pots as well if you want something more versatile.  

3. Broccoli 


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While some vegetables crisp up brilliantly in an air fryer, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli won’t have quite the same effect. It contains less moisture, which means it dries out very quickly and can even turn to dust if left for long enough. 

You can add more oil to help it crisp, but the results are generally better using more traditional cooking methods, such as roasting. 

4. Wet batter 

Beer battered fish and chips with peas

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Most of us would assume batter is safe to cook in an air fryer — after all, the majority of air fryer recipes are covered in batter. While this is the case for cooked batter, wet batter is another story. The consistency of wet batter won’t be able to set in an air fryer as it does when fried in oil, so it will end up dripping into a mess — a bit like cheese. It won’t crisp at all and the puddle of batter will burn to the base. That’s why wet batter shouldn’t go in the basket. 

Instead you can substitute with a bread crumb coating: you just need flour, bread crumbs, and eggs to do this.  

5. Roast chicken 

A roast chicken next to lemons and a carving knife

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Unless your air fryer is big enough to fit a whole roast chicken and comes with a dedicated cooking program, it shouldn’t be used for this. Unlike the best toaster ovens, air fryers generally have a much smaller capacity and are designed for smaller jobs. 

Even if you can wedge a chicken in there, don’t do it. The air needs to circulate to cook effectively and you will end up with a dry, burnt bird. Better to cut the chicken into pieces and fry them separately.

If you're not sure whether to invest in a traditional air fryer or a toaster oven design, our Homes Editor would buy an air fryer over a toaster oven — here's why.

6. Burgers 

A cooked burger next to chilli and garlic

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While you can cook burgers in an air fryer, as mentioned above, we felt it was worth flagging that it’s difficult to cook anything less than well-done. Because of the internal temperature of an air fryer, burgers will reach a medium-well color on the inside quite quickly, but the exterior won’t have had time to cook, so it’s not exactly appealing. 

If you like your burgers well-done, this isn’t an issue, but the grill might be the better option for others. The same can be said for steaks. 

7. Popcorn 

Popcorn in a bowl

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Everyone loves a bowl of freshly popped popcorn and considering it’s so quick to make in a microwave, it’s easy to think the same method should apply in an air fryer. 

Unfortunately, air fryers can’t reach the temperature required to pop the kernels (at least 400°F), so you will be left snackless on your movie night. Stick to using the microwave or stovetop instead.   

8. Seasoning  

Chicken being seasoned

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Because an air fryer circulates the air as it cooks, any dry seasoning which isn’t secure can be blown off. Fine seasoning which you can rub in, such as salt and pepper, should be fine. But, loose seasoning such as chili flakes can catch in the air flow, making it difficult to clean your air fryer afterwards. This is also a waste of seasoning. 

Season your food once it’s out of the air fryer, or alternatively, you can add some oil to your food before seasoning to help it stick. 

9. Fresh greens 

Leafy greens

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Similar to seasoning, any lightweight leafy greens you put in your air fryer will only get blown around. This means they will cook unevenly and burn easily too, so vegetables such as lettuce and spinach should be avoided. Kale chips are possible, but you would need to coat them in enough oil to give them weight. 

Generally, you will have more success with frozen vegetables because of the added moisture.   

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive. 

  • Tnad
    I agree about all of these except cheese obviously. There are a lot of good recipes with cheese for the air fryer. I usually air fry the bread on one side (2 min at 370 for ciabatta) then flip, add fresh mozzarella and salt, then again 4 min at 370. Both the cheese and bread come out amazing.
  • Wolfshadw
    1) Have to agree with the above about cheese. IMO, the air fryer is perfect for grilled cheese and quesadillas. However, any cheese that isn't covered (just trying to get a top melt for instance) should be avoided.

    2) Who would ever think of trying to cook raw rice in an air fryer?

    3) Depending on your air fryer, (I have the original NuWave) place a bowl of water at the bottom and heat it up. This sets up a steamy bath for cooking any vegetable (you'll want to use a lower power level).

    4) While I wouldn't recommend just a wet batter (and certainly not a dripping one), if you apply a coating of panko to the wet batter, you'll be fine.

    5) Again, this depends on your air fryer. Truth be told, I've never done a full sized bird in mine, but it's large enough. Since I'm generally cooking for one, I stick with cornish game hens.

    6) If you're using frozen patties or are looking for a quick (and cheaper) take-out alternative, the air fryer is fine. If you're making your own patties, then I'd stick to the grill.

    7) Same as rice. Why would you even consider this? A little oil in a 3qt pot is all you need.

    8) Once you have your items seasoned, spritz them with a bit of olive oil to keep the seasoning in place. Aerosol sprays are not recommended here.

    9) If you REALLY want to char some vegetables in an air fryer, then a couple well placed toothpicks will hold them in place.

    I've owned and used my original NuWave air fryer for almost 15 years and while some things on this list are correct (if a bit silly to even suggest), everything else is perfectly doable with a little ingenuity and know-how.

    -Wolf sends